Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Agented Author #9

TITLE: Borrower
GENRE: MG Mystery

There aren't many reasons why a family of four would cram into a bathroom at the same time, especially one as small as ours. But when my little brother Derek found his favorite goldfish floating upside down in the bowl right before breakfast, Mom suggested we have his funeral before the bus arrived for school.

Surrounded by lilac wall paper much too bright and cheery for Gingersnap's royal send off, we crowded around the toilet. Every movement to avoid a towel bar or paper holder sent off a chain reaction of hip pokes and elbow jabs. I barely noticed, all my attention on Gingersnap as his bloated body drifted around the edge of the toilet bowl. Not many people look down at a dead goldfish and wonder if that's how they looked the day they died. Then again, I suppose not many people drown and then come back to life, either.

I held in a shudder. After all, Mom and Dad were watching.

Sniffing loudly, my brother sprinkled fish food into the bowl. Multi-colored flakes swirled around Gingersnap's corpse like street glitter after a Fourth of July parade. No way did I look like that the day I died. First of all, it wasn't like anyone at the public pool had thrown fish food over my body or Maya would have told me about it later. Second, there's a big difference between a dead goldfish and a twelve-year-old girl, even if her hair was sort of the same rusty orange as its fish scales. And third, Gingersnap had a pretty shocked look on his face, kind of like he hadn't seen the end coming. Well, maybe we had that in common. I hadn't seen death coming, either.

"G-goodbye, Gingersnap. I'll never forget you."

Derek dragged a sleeve across his eyes and I gave his shoulders a squeeze. This had to be tough. He loved his pets the same way other four-year-olds loved superheroes and cartoons. Behind me, Mom shifted in the tight space. I didn't need to turn to know her gaze was on me, even though she should have been paying attention to Derek.

"We'll miss you, Gingersnap." I smiled at Derek. "H was a big fish in a little sea, wasn't he?"

Derek nodded and almost smiled back. "Yeah he was."

"One in a million, in fact," Dad added. "The best goldfish ever."

Derek broke away from me to face Dad. "But what about Mr. Balloons?" he asked, his wet gaze burning with loyalty for his other goldfish.

"Oh, he's the best too." Dad flashed a quick smile. "But he's got big fins to fill now that Gingersnap is gone, that's all."

My brother stared at him for a minute, squishing his eyebrows together. Finally, he nodded. "Okay, then."

Mom leaned over my shoulder, one of her loose copper curls tickling my neck. "Are you okay, Lexi?"

I tried not to flinch.

"I'm fine. Really," I whispered back. "It's Derek's fish. Maybe you should ask how he's doing."


  1. Love the goldfish funeral. It depicts a very caring family. I was completely confused by the girl being dead and still being in the bathroom and her family could see her.

  2. I love a lot of things about this.

    I love the goldfish funeral, but I think I would tighten up the first two paragraphs to turn them into one.

    I love the idea that she's dead, but coming back to life, and that alone has me hooked.

    I think the descriptions are a bit lengthy, though... maybe you could cut out about half of them, and up the suspense just a bit?

  3. Okay, I'm hooked.

    I love the setting you paint, and I love the slowly revealed mystery that Lexi is also dead. (Undead? Zombie? Rescued with CPR and dealing with the trauma?) I want to know more!

    Not sure we needed the line about Lexi's hair being the same colour as the goldfish; you could save this for after this tense scene.

  4. Like the voice.
    Like the setting. You give a great description of the tight place.
    I'd read more.

  5. PS after reading all of them, I think this is the best submission.

  6. HOOKED. I want to read mooooooooooooore! :)

  7. I didn't read this as the girl still being dead etc - it said she came back to life. I read this, then, as in she'd been rescued and was alive. Interesting to see how others took it to mean she's dead-dead. Perhaps that is explained more later on?

  8. The first sentence grabbed my attention and kept me hooked. I did, however, wondered if she is a ghost. Yeah, you said "came back to life" but I still wondered.

    Great voice!

  9. I liked this! You have some really nice details with the towel bar and toile paper holder, etc.

    I didn't have a problem with the girl dying and coming back to life. It was totally clear to me. People drown all the time, their heart stops, and someone starts it again with CPR. I never even went to zombie or anything. Huh!

    This does need a thorough typo scrubbing. (Not that I can talk. I make millions of them.) I'd also suggest speeding up the beginning. It takes a bit to get moving through the descriptions. See what you can cut. If it's not necessary for us to know right now (her hair color?), snip away!

    Overall, this is really cute. I love that the family has a goldfish funeral in the bathroom. It definitely shows how close they are.

  10. Amazing. I thought this was a pretty fantastic start. Have no criticism.

  11. Hooked. I love this although it sets a rather dark mood for a MG.

  12. Liked the voice, too.

    There was a typo.
    "H was ..." should have been "He was..."

    I didn't think she was a ghost, just that she died and was rescured/brought back in the flesh. I think some of the goldfish stuff could be cut, as it seemed to take away the impact of finding out the MC had a brush with death.

  13. I liked this and I didn't haven't any problem with her being dead- there's so many paranormals posted on this website that I clued right in that this was something like that. And I really liked how you worked in the backstory.

    My only concern is the long introductory phrases- particularly as this is MG. I had to re-read the elbow poking prhase twice before the sentence began to make sense. I think the impact (because this is full of great impact) would be sharper if you just started with the subject. We crowded round the toilet, surrounded by lilac paper.....

    I barely noticed all the elbow jabs...

  14. Nice, but too much emphasis on the funeral. The intrigue of the MC drowns in the lengthy description of poor fishy. Save it for later and hook the reader now with what the story is really about.

  15. I'm not going to be much help because I loved this :) I loved the fish funeral and thought it was a clever and fresh way to introduce that the MC had drowned and been brought back to life (I completely understood what you meant).

    I loved the fact that Derek sprinkled fish food. Too cute!

    Best of luck to you!

  16. This is one of my favorite pieces in this batch. My one comment is extremely subjective, but I think paragraph 4 almost reveals too much information upfront about Lexi's brush with death. I think it could build the mystery better if it stopped at "No way did I look like that the day I died." and more details were revealed later in the manuscript. Leaving a few breadcrumbs like that would completely intrigue me to keep reading.

  17. I agree, tighten first two graphs into one and lose some of the backstory in graph four.

    Specifics that stopped me: use of "bowl" - did the fish die in the toilet bowl? I missed the "come back to life" phrase, and wondered how a dead girl could communicate with her family so easily. Were they all dead? Finally, the 'first of all' line about the fish food at the pool is a stretch.

    A girl's brush with the Great Beyond is a great, compelling hook. I suggest trimming the prose to make it more clear and strong.

  18. Thanks everyone who offered their time and opinions on this, and for all the kind words!

    I was testing out a new opening, and this really helps me see what I 'lost' from my old one that I need to add to make things clearer, and also what I need to tone down on so other elements come through.

    I really appreciate the help, and thanks to MSFV for so awesomely holding a crit session for the agented. Agented doesn't mean we don't still need help!

    Have a great weekend, everyone!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse